Search & Replace S04E04: Terry Tucker

In a world where life throws unexpected challenges, Terry Tucker’s cancer journey is a testament to resilience and determination. From corporate marketing to law enforcement and beyond, Terry’s story unfolds with remarkable twists and turns, ultimately confronting a rare form of cancer that defied conventional odds. Join us on this episode of Search and Replace as Terry shares how he transformed his diagnosis into a powerful mission for Sustainable Excellence, offering profound insights on navigating life’s trials with courage and purpose. Prepare to be inspired as we dive into Terry’s extraordinary tale of finding strength, meaning, and enduring hope amidst adversity. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:12] Joe Taylor Jr.: What if the miracle you get isn’t the one you asked for? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.  

[00:00:22] It’s fair to say that Terry Tucker’s experienced a bunch of ups and downs in life, along with a bunch of career moves that you might not expect.  

[00:00:31] Terry Tucker: Grew up on the South side of Chicago. Oldest of three boys. My brothers and I were all college athletes. 

[00:00:38] Graduate from college, first person in my family to graduate from college. I found that first job in the corporate headquarters of Wendy’s International, the hamburger chain in their marketing department. That was the good news. The bad news was I spent the next three and a half years living at home helping my mother care for my father and my grandmother who were both dying of different forms of cancer. 

[00:00:59] And then I shifted to hospital administration. I actually went to work for the hospital that cared for my father and my grandmother. And then I made a major pivot in my life and became a police officer. And part of what I did during my law enforcement career was I was a SWAT team hostage negotiator. 

[00:01:16] After that, I started a school security consulting business, coached girls high school basketball.  

[00:01:22] Joe Taylor Jr.: It’s the last job on that list that plays a huge role in Terry’s story, revealing something that he might not have discovered otherwise.  

[00:01:31] Terry Tucker: I had a callus break open on the bottom of my foot. And initially didn’t think much of it, because as a coach you’re on your feet a lot. 

[00:01:38] But after a few weeks of it not healing, I went to see a podiatrist, a foot doctor friend of mine. And he took an x ray and he said, Terry, I think you have a cyst in there and I can cut it out. And he did. And he showed it to me. Nothing that gave either one of us concern.  

[00:01:52] And then two weeks later, I received a call from him that I think we all dread in our lives. And as I said, he was a friend of mine and the more difficulty he was having explaining to me what was going on, the more frightened I was becoming. Until finally he just laid it out for me. He said, Terry, I’ve been a doctor for 25 years. I have never seen the form of cancer that you have. You have this incredibly rare form of melanoma. 

[00:02:17] Mine has absolutely nothing to do with sun exposure. It’s just this really, kind of, off the wall kind of cancer.  

[00:02:25] Joe Taylor Jr.: Despite that diagnosis, Terry kept looking beyond the odds.  

[00:02:29] Terry Tucker: When I was diagnosed, I was told that if I got a miracle, I might live five years, but more than likely, I’d be dead in two years. 

[00:02:37] So, I thought, well, what the heck, I’ve been given a death sentence, maybe I can turn that death sentence into a life sentence. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last 11 and a half years.  

[00:02:48] You know, when I die, where I die, how I die way above my pay grade, don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that.  

[00:02:53] There’s kind of that old saying when you can’t do what you were good at, you begin to do what’s important in life.  

[00:03:01] And, you know, through this cancer journey, I’ve had my foot amputated in 2018 and my leg amputated in 2020. I still have tumors in my lungs that I’m treated for every three weeks. It’s just part of my life. 

[00:03:14] So the dying part, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about. I spend more time focusing on the things that are important to me, which for me are my faith, my family, and my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all have a breaking point, but I think we quit and give up just because things are hard, things are difficult. 

[00:03:31] When things are hard and difficult, that’s when we grow, that’s when we improve, that’s when we get better. So I’ve used this cancer experience just to make me a better human being.  

[00:03:43] I don’t like it, you know, I’m a human being just like everybody else. I have bad days. I get down, I cry, I feel sorry for myself. But when I do, I think, Come on, Terry, you’ve got a whole lot more to give to yourself than quitting and giving up at this point in time.  

[00:03:57] Joe Taylor Jr.: So, Terry decided to start writing down some of the things he’s learned from his experience. And he turned those thoughts into a book.  

[00:04:05] Terry Tucker: The book was really born out of two conversations I had. 

[00:04:09] One was with a former player that I had coached when I was a basketball coach. And I remember saying to her after dinner that I was excited that she was living close and I could watch her find and live her purpose. And she got real quiet for a while. And then she looked at me and she said, Well, coach, what do you think my purpose is? 

[00:04:28] I said, I have absolutely no idea what your purpose is, but that’s what your life should be about Finding the reason you were put on this earth using your unique gifts and talents and living that reason.  

[00:04:38] And then I had a young man reach out to me on social media from college And he said what do you think are the most important things I need to learn? Not to just be successful in my job or in business But to be successful in life, I didn’t want to give them, you know, get up early work hard I didn’t want to give them sort of the cliches that we all know. I wanted to go deeper with them So I spent some time taking some notes and eventually had these ten thoughts, these ten ideas, these ten principles And so I sent them to him and then I stepped back and I was like, well I got a life story that fits underneath that principle, Or I know somebody whose life emulates this principle. 

[00:05:15] So literally during the months that I was healing, after I had my leg amputated, I sat down at the computer every day and I built stories and the real stories about real people underneath each of the principles. And that’s how Sustainable Excellence came to be.  

[00:05:30] Joe Taylor Jr.: Terry hopes his message can help us learn how to better cope with the pain in our lives. 

[00:05:35] Terry Tucker: Our brains are hardwired to avoid pain and discomfort and to seek pleasure. Pain in our lives is inevitable. Suffering, on the other hand, suffering is optional. Suffering is what you do with that pain. Do you use it to make you a stronger and more determined individual, or do you wallow in it and feel sorry for yourself and want other people to feel sorry for you? 

[00:05:58] Make the effort to focus on someone else. And if I think if you do that now all of a sudden, one you’re helping another human being, and two you’re not focused on your plight. You’re focused on making a positive difference in another person’s life.  

[00:06:16] We spend a tremendous amount of time working on this body. We go to the gym, we eat right, we get enough rest. And I’m certainly not telling you not to do that. But what I am suggesting is, maybe every day spend a little more time working on who you really are. That heart, that mind, that soul.  

[00:06:33] We know this body is going to die, but I think our heart, our mind, and our soul, those things are eternal, those things will live on. And if we spend more time working on them, imagine what the future might bring.  

[00:06:45] Joe Taylor Jr.: That’s Terry Tucker, author of the book, Sustainable Excellence, Ten Principles to Leading Your Uncommon and Extraordinary Life. We’ve Terry’s work in our show notes and on our website at  

[00:06:58] Today’s episode was produced by Nicole Hubbard with help from the entire Podcast Taxi team. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr.  

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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